A review by ury949
The Aerialist by Richard Schmitt


The characters in this book came to life and were real - and from a very unique and real corner of the world: the traveling circus. I loved every detail. There was no denying the knowledge of the author on this crazy, coddled operation, from the guy at the top of the 20ft stilts to the butchers selling snow cones in the stands, to the animal handlers, the train man, and even the guy who serves them all food in the pie car.

The story's momentum came and went - the fleetingness of Gary in the beginning (which intrigued and disgusted me) didn't match his obsessive commitment in the second half (which I can more relate to). It's like the circus changed him, and created a monster of sorts. The moments where the story stopped to take a detailed look at the tight-rope walker's training session, or his act, where it described which muscle rolled over the wire cable and the direction in the air of his torso - those parts I really enjoyed. But then when the action zoomed back out, things seemed to slow down - they travel, he fights with his girl, they perform, he practices, they make money, etc. I knew from the beginning what the climax would be; I almost dreaded it - but then there were still five chapters to buffer it; the book slowly wound down, as a life dies off from it's peak, rather than end the book at the end of the story, and that killed it's impact. The very last chapter had nothing to do with the circus - it had to do with his old dog dying and him explaining death to his daughter; I cried, it was so moving. But at the same time, I was wondering how that actually fit in with the story and why the author chose to end the book that way.

I recommend for anyone at all who's interested in the circus or has lived or worked with a circus. The book's merits ride on (and is amazing due to) it's setting and characters.